A SPORTS CAR OF CHARACTER
BEING SOME IMPRESSIONS GAINED DURING THE COURSE OF A WEEK END’S MOTORING wax A 1929 T.T. LEA FRANCIS. WHAT are the characteristics of a real sports car ? This question has probably given rise to more heated discussions among fast motorists than any other (yes, including the banning of superchargers in the T.T. I-En.) Should a sports car be judged as an “extension,” so to speak, of the touring car, giving a faster maximum, more certain road holding and steering, without loss of silence or comfort ? Or again, should it be more closely related to the racing car, sacrificing a luxuriously appointed body and mechanical silence to that rough surge of power, perfect weight distribution and positive steering control which only a competition-car can provide ? Frankly, the writer has recently inclined to the former view, asking with
apparent logic, “If the So-and-So does 90 m.p.h. in complete silence, and only costs £500, why should other cars be noisy ? No one can possibly like a lot of noise on a long run.” But now all this has altered, and the change has been brought about by driving once more a good sports car of several years ago. To be exact, the car was the supercharged Lea-Francis driven by
Cyril Paul in the 1929 T.T., the last of of its series to emanate from the LeaFrancis factory and do battle in a road race. • This car was very kindly loaned to us for a week-end by that enthusiastic motorist, A. N. L. Maclachla,n, who has raced the car at Brooklands and Shelsley Walsh. In the Relay Race of two years
ago it average 95 m.p.h. for 30 laps, and a few weeks before we took it over was timed over a flying quarter at Brooklands at 94 m.p.h. Such a performance from a 1 i litre engine would lead one to believe that the car would be a ” handful” in traffic, consuming plugs with avidity and being generally a cause of considerable em barrassment in a Piccadilly jam. Let it be said straight away, that the Lea Francis is just as docile and tractable
as any so-called sports model of to-day. The engine continues to fire evenly at tick-over speed for an indefinite period, and will throttle down to 10 m.p.h. on top gear-if you want it to. Using the same plugs we attained a genuine 90 m.p.h. on the road, but for
absolute maximum ” hard ” plugs are advisable. During the whole week-end the car never misfired a single beat, although no more precautions against missing were taken than one does with a family saloon.
Ordinary” Ethyl “is the car’s favourite fuel, there being no need to use a benzol or special petrol. The car was naturally appreciative of intelligent use of the ignition-control, but it did not ” pink ” easily, and altogether was surprisingly normal in behaviour. Not the least of the charms of the ” Leaf ” is its high back-axle ratio, which
allows a speed of close on 70 m.p.h. to be maintained at a mere 3,000 r.p.m. At 50 m.p.h. the car is rumbling along with an exhaust note and general ” feel” not unlike a 30/98 Vauxhall. In fact, a prolonged scrap with a well-kept specimen of that make on the Eastbourne road resulted in honours being evenly divided.
The road holding is of the type only found in cars built by manufacturers who have raced consistently. It can best be described by saying that one naturally slides the car on open corners, the process being accomplished with a sense of complete security and balance.
A little excessive speed just causes more movement of the tail than usual, and is automatically corrected by the high geared steering. The result is that astonishingly high average speeds can be made, the driver delighting all the while in holding the car at skidding-point on every curve and corner. On returning the car to its owner, Maclachan told us that it had done well over 50,000 miles without being rebored. We found that the oil consumption was almost negligible, and careful driving gave a petrol consumption of 17 m.p.g. Not a little is due in this respect to the
extraordinarily good condition in which the car is maintained. The engine was spotless, not a drop of oil showing anywhere, and the whole chassis bore traces of constant attention.
Maclachlan, by the way, has just opened a garage at Worthing, in collaboration with J. C. Elwes, who is well known as an M.G., Austin and Singer driver in competitions. Judging from the tune and general condition of the old “Leaf,” sports car owners would do well to entrust their mounts for tuning work to this new venture, the Cresta Motor Co., Broadwater Road, Worthing.